Anti-abortion activists jammed the State House on Monday to testify all night against a package of bills championed by Gov. Janet Mills, including the one that would allow post-viability abortions that are deemed necessary by medical professionals.
It was an unprecedented show of force from Maine’s anti-abortion movement. But it is unlikely to interrupt the likely road to passage for that bill and others on the subject.
A long day: The Judiciary Committee hearing began at noon Monday and wrapped up at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Roughly 65 people testified in person in support of the measures, which is a lot for a normal hearing in Augusta. That group included Dana Peirce, who found out at 32 weeks that her fetus had a likely fatal anomaly and got an abortion in Colorado because Maine law did not allow it. Mills has said Peirce’s story prompted her support for the measure.
But that side was swamped by 650 people who signed up to argue against the proposals, led by faith groups including the evangelical Christian Civic League of Maine. One man testified in the form of a prayer at 10:45 p.m., following round after round of faith-based arguments against the measures.
“You created these babies in your image and there are adults here before me that should be protecting their lives, yet there is a bill that is atrocious,” he said.
The context: Marathon hearings are rarely representative of public opinion. Rather, they measure the depth of feelings on an issue. But Republicans will see the gap between the sides from Monday into Tuesday as a justification of their fight with Mills after she reversed herself after saying in the 2022 campaign that she wanted to see no changes to abortion access laws.
Supporters have pointed to a recent University of New Hampshire poll finding a majority of Mainers back the governor’s bill. Polling on this issue is fickle based on the wording of questions. National surveys generally show strong opposition to abortions late in pregnancies but strong support for them in the case of serious fetal abnormalities.
What’s next: These legal changes had an air of inevitability from the first day Mills rolled them out. When the key measure was printed last month, enough Democrats were on the list of co-sponsors to pass it outright. Only seven Democrats did not sign on, mostly from rural areas and Franco-American strongholds.
While it may force some into difficult votes, nothing changed this week to keep the measures on a likely track to passage. As testimony kept going, one top Democrat vowed to keep the pedal down on the issue.
“In addition to defeating anti-abortion bills, my colleagues and I will protect Mainers’ rights to access reproductive health care, including abortion,” Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said in a Monday post on Facebook.